Quick trivia question. How many Apostles are there in the New Testament?

If you said 12, you are incorrect.

If you said 13, you probably think you are smart, thinking that Matthias took the place of Judas Iscariot in the Acts of the

Apostles, thus 13. But you are incorrect.

The correct answer (I hope) is 16. Let me explain.

You have the 12 Apostles and then Matthias. So far so good. But the Acts of the Apostles mentions that St. Paul and St. Luke are also Apostles. That brings the number up to 15.

And then there is St. Barnabas. From the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 14, verse 14:

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd,

 

16!

Sts. Paul and Luke get some good press, but St. Barnabas is somewhat underrated. So let’s do a deep dive into the life and death of the 16th Apostles.

Barnabas’ story is mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures in the Acts of the Apostles. He is also named in some of Paul’s letters. He was born Joseph in Cyprus, a Levite (Acts 4: 26). He was then

given the name, apparently by the early Church, of Barnabas, which literally means “Son of Encouragement.” According to famed Scripture Scholar Fr. Charles Samson, he may have been given this name because he vouches for St. Paul after his

conversion when the Christian community was initially wary of Paul’s intentions. In Acts, he gives his property (probably in Cyprus) to the apostles. (He lays the property at the feet of the apostles, sharing material wealth.)

Barnabas went to Antioch where the early Christian community had much success. He gets Paul to preach with him and they

return from Antioch to Jerusalem to help poorer Christians there.

They then returned to Antioch taking John Mark with them, the cousin or nephew of Barnabas. Later, they went to Cyprus and some of the principal cities of Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia.

After recounting what the governor of Cyprus Sergius Paulus

believed, speaks of Barnabas’s spiritual brother no longer as Saul, but as Paul, his Roman name, and generally refers to the two no

longer as “Barnabas and Saul” as heretofore, but as “Paul and Barnabas”.

When he returned to Jerusalem, Barnabas participated in the Council of Jerusalem, which opened up the Church to Jew and Gentile alike. They returned to Antioch after the Council and there seems to have been a rift between Paul and Barnabas, because

Barnabas acted one way with the Gentiles, but another way when the Jewish Christians were around. You can read about it in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Paul wanted Barnabas to go with him on another missionary trip, but Barnabas wanted to take Mark along, and for some reason,

Paul balked at that.  So they went their separate ways.  But it is

inferred in Acts that they remained friends. By the end of the Acts of the Apostles, when Paul is imprisoned in Rome, there is a

suggestion that Barnabas had already died a martyr. Scholars are not sure how or where exactly he was martyred. Extra-biblical writings suggest that he was tortured and stoned, but no one

knows for sure.

When you think about the life of the Apostle Barnabas, you first discover someone who very early on accepted the Christian faith, one of the very first converts. The aforementioned Fr. Samson

told me he may have been around for the Pentecost event. We

certainly know that he was a fearless preacher and evangelizer of the early church, bringing the good news to the ancient world. I also like the fact that he wasn’t perfect. He had some flaws, but that did not deter him from bringing the message of Christ to the world.

St. Barnabas’ feast day is this week June 11.

St. Barnabas, Apostle to the Early Church, pray for us!

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